It was coincidentally the anniversary of my uncle's murder the day I saw the man in the mall; the man who once, upon knowing who I was, spoke to me a great length about the man who murdered my uncle and, by proxy, my grandfather who died several days later of a broken heart. The man in the store had grown up with the killer; such a nice guy. So many good times.
When I see that man I think of all the good times my uncle never had with his grandchildren, all the days when my cousins must want to tell him something about their lives but cannot. I think of what the killer took from all of us.
The murder happened when I was living in Bangkok. I had just started my Masters degree and got an early morning phone call from my father. He was crying on the phone. I was helpless half a world away.
A few days later I got another call; my grandfather had died. I just stayed in my one room apartment and sat in the shower for days so I wouldn't know how many tears I shed.
So now when I see that man, I see murder, I see loss, I see pain.
I sometimes think about which is worse, to lose a loved one by accident, by disease or by violence. Having experienced all three I reckon to lose a loved one by someone else's hand is far worse than any other loss. There was an alternative, a different path the killer might have taken.
I cried in the shower this morning as I thought of the last time I saw my grandfather. I was heading back to Thailand after a visit home and he cried as I went out the front door of the small white house across from the beach where I had always known him. Something in his heart told him he wouldn't see me again.
My grandfather was not a crying man. I can only remember seeing him cry once before and that was when my mother announced she was leaving my father. He went out to one of his fishing sheds to wipe his eyes and didn't come back until we had left the house. And it was my uncle who helped us move in the middle of snow storm; tears in his eyes.
The first time I came home after the murders was the hardest. I saw a man walking towards me at the annual come home week parade and for a moment I thought it was my uncle. It shook me to realize that he was gone and that it was my cousin, his son, standing in front of me.
That trip home was a difficult one. In my absence I had lost five family members and I remember the trip mostly as a pilgrimage of grief; first to Massachusetts where two aunts and a grandfather had died and then to Nova Scotia to confront the murder of my uncle and subsequent death of my grandfather.
I don't know how many years it has been since my uncle and grandfather died. Every year I wonder about how long it has been because this pain doesn't end. Time doesn't replace what has been lost. What was needlessly taken from my family.
I am so angry.